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What ever happened to baby Jan?

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Anna and Luca, Léa and Samuel, Sofia and Luca/Alessandro were the most popular names last year in Switzerland's three main language regions.

Nevio and Célia were the highest climbers overall, according to the latest "First name hit parade" published regularly by the Federal Statistics Office.

Last year the births of 37,766 boys and 35,605 girls were registered in Switzerland, up from 37,569 and 35,334 in 2005.

A list of the most popular names in German-, French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country has been published since 1987.

Anna was the favourite girl's name in the German-speaking part of Switzerland in 2006, followed by Lena, Lara, Laura and Leonie. Luca returned to pole position in the boys' charts, beating off Noah, Leon, last year's winner David, Joël and Jan. Luca had previously enjoyed the top spot since 1997.

In French-speaking Switzerland, Léa and Emma were still easily the most popular girls' names, with Léa (number one from 1998 to 2003) this time getting the upper hand. Laura, Chloé and Julie were runners-up.

Among the men, Samuel rocketed from tenth position to the top, pipping Noah, Nathan and Luca. Last year's most popular boy's name, Théo, fell out of favour, dropping to 11th.

In the Italian-speaking part of the country, Luca and Alessandro shared the top spot, ahead of Gabriele, last year's top choice Mattia, and Davide. Sofia elbowed to the front ahead of Giulia, Giada, Elisa and Martina. Last year's number one, Sara, fell to ninth.

Switzerland's 35,000 Romansh speakers did breed in 2006 but the small numbers involved mean it's hard to glean meaningful information. The most popular boy's name was Nico, with five reported cases, which squeezed out Samuel and Noah. Among the ladies Anna beat Jasmine and Lorena.

Nevio heard of him

Angelina, in 28th position, continued her strong performance in German-speaking Switzerland which saw her rise from 121st in 2003 to 41st in 2005.

Analysing baby names is hardly an exact science, but it's a relatively safe bet that the high-profile media coverage of US film star and adopter Angelina Jolie played a role. Brad, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Nevertheless it is unclear why the success story of 2006 is Nevio, who rose from 247th in 2005 to 37th. Although in 2005 a finalist in Germany's biggest television talent show had that name.

Kevin, a name which gained significant popularity in Switzerland after the Home Alone films, dropped from 19th in German-speaking Switzerland 2004 to 48th this year – maybe a sign that US geopolitics have resulted in the shine on all things American becoming slightly dimmer?

Probably not: in French-speaking Switzerland Kevin rose from 34th last year to 22nd.

It's not unusual

Swiss parents have traditionally opted for relatively traditional, often biblical names.

One of the reasons why they didn't in the past go for unusual names was that they couldn't: local registry offices would veto any names deemed inappropriate.

In one relatively high-profile case ten years ago, Christine Lauterburg, a famous-within-Switzerland musician, was told she couldn't call her daughter "Lexikon".

Nowadays however all local registries agree with the line taken by Zurich's civil registrar that "parents are basically free to choose their child's name as long as it is not likely to damage the interests of the child".

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In brief

The Federal Statistics Office has been publishing a list of the most popular names in Switzerland since 1987.

The figures are based on data provided by the official registry offices in the 26 cantons.

Of Switzerland's 7.4 million inhabitants, 63.5% speak German, 20.5% French, 6.5% Italian and 0.5% Romansh.

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Key facts

Anna and Luca were the most popular names in the German-speaking part of Switzerland in 2006.
Léa and Samuel are top of the list in the French-speaking region.
Sofia and Luca and Alessandro were top in the Italian-speaking regions and Nico and Anna were most popular choices for Romansh speakers.

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Most popular baby names around the world

United States (2006): Jacob, Michael, Joshua and Emily, Emma, Madison.
England and Wales (2006): Jack, Thomas, Joshua and Olivia, Grace, Jessica.

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